5 things I thought would be different when I left home

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It has been almost 10 years since I left home and went out into the wild, scary, unknown world of adulthood living. I feel like I was truly and utterly underprepared for what was out there, and had I known, I’d have pulled a jew-dude (TM) and stayed at home until I was thirty.

But just like with black, there’s really no going back once you have fled the familial nest.

I just had so many misconceptions on what I thought living away from my parents would look like.

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  1. “I can eat whatever I want!”
    Oh, oh…ohhh how I dream of the lovingly prepared home cooked meals of yesteryear. So angry and angsty was I, when a meal was NOT EXACTLY what I felt like eating, but instead an equal measure of vegetables, meat and grains. MEAT! Do you know how expensive that shit is?! What I would give, to have two middle aged people cooking for me three times a day…
  2. “I can stay up SO late”
    Want to know what I did Friday, Saturday and Sunday night this past weekend? Binge watched The Wire (because I’m about 15 years behind in my television programming at this point). I am a morning person, so around 10/10.30pm I start to fade fast. I used to think living away from my parents would be sooooooo wicked because I could just drink and party and watch movies all night long…Turns out my favourite thing these days is sleep. Yeah. I’m pretty cool actually.

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  3. “I do what I want!”
    So long as it doesn’t cost money. Seriously. Sometimes over the last few years I have had all of the freedom and none of the money (funemployed/between contracts) and other times I have had some of the money and none of the time (J.O.B). When can I have all of the money and all of the freedom? (right…right…when I rob a bank Oceans Eleven style…got it…have you guys SEEN that movie? It just came out recently in 2001)
  4. “I can date whoever I choose!”
    Remember when your parents hated that guy you were dating in High School and you were like IHATEYOUWEAREINLOVEyoudon’tunderstandmeGETOUTOFMYROOM! Yeah well. Turns out they were right. Man when I was single, I would have given my left ovary (she’s the gimpy one I suspect) for my parents to be hovering over my shoulder as I swiped like: “No. No. No. Yes Paris. No he will have a weird thing for feet. No. No. What about that nice boy from the coffee shop?” It turns out I just wanna date guys that my parents will like and not weirdo’s with spider-man face tattoo’s. Go figure.
  5. “I’m going to get a creative job and YOU CAN’T STOP ME!”
    In grade 12 when picking degree time came, my mother said to me: “Do a degree with the name of a job in it” and I laughed in her face as I applied for my Bachelor of Arts. I guess, if you were to squint your eyes, choke yourself a bit until no oxygen went to your brain and then smoked some meth – you could really consider my whole life one elaborate “Art”. “So what do you do Paris?” oh me? I’m Art. Yeah I studied it at University. In reality, life has been interesting in the working world (#noregrets) but I definitely find myself veering more towards the corporate world as I see all my fellow creatives struggling and think fucccckthatshit. Oh you live in a basement apartment with your sibling, sister and co-business partners and you work in a deli 3 days a week but your new album just dropped on myspace? Cool dude, Imma go over here and work on my excel skills though….

So many people I know have babies now. Literally holding an infant a week ago and thinking: “this adorable squishy baby girl is going to slam a door in your face some day.”

I wish I could go back ten years and slap some sense into my 17 year old self. Eat my free meals, get my free laundry, and remind myself that unfortunately…your parents were right. Uh! Gross.

How do Third Culture Kids make it work?

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A Facebook event invitation pops up.

What is the first detail you note?

For me it’s the city the event is being held in.

I’ve missed so many birthdays, bachelorettes, house warnings, engagement parties…

2 weeks ago, two of the coolest people I know stood up in front of a lot of people and said “Sure why not?” and got married to each other. I was asleep, 12 hours behind, 12,000 kilometres away.

If I ever sound jaded about love or throw my hands up in the air when people I know are getting married, roll my eyes, and scoff, well, this could be the one couple who could maybe make me melt and say “nawwwww weddings, LOVE, Foreverness, etc. YAY”.

My beautiful (now married) friends are the international types, so one of their weddings was being held this month in Hong Kong, and one in France. Back in January I decided that as much as I love Hong Kong, now that my Mother has moved to Thailand (selfish bitch! Stay in Hong Kong forever so i can have a free place to stay, you MOO. You’re so mean to me, I’m running away! YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD!!!!), that I would attend the one being held in France. I thought: Fuckeyeah, Food, Fun and French guys. YUP.

I pulled out my poor, tired credit card and whacked some international flights on them. Hashtag YOLO, Hashtag whoneedsaretirementplan?

I was a Temp at the time, which despite its many drawbacks, meant I could take as much vacation whenever I wanted. It was January and September seemed like a long way off. Sure I could commit. Why not?

And then my year exploded.

Opportunities came my way after a year of knocking on every single door and having it slammed in my face. I attended two of the most amazing film festivals in the world, worked at arguably one of the best  global Film & TV distribution companies, and travelled to three new cities, all before June.

And then one day when looking at my calendar, a shiver of dread ran down my spine and I had one of those OH FUCK moments.

My friends France wedding was smack bang on the first weekend of the International film festival taking place in my backyard.

All of the jobs I was interviewing for would need me in Toronto the weekend I was supposed to be sipping champagne and terrorizing my french Mates groomsmen.

I so badly wanted to be in France with my friends, watching them get married, and make this huge commitment (shudder) to each other. But the timing just couldn’t have been worse. I’m still the bottom of the food chain, and there are 300 other girls who would eat me alive for the opportunities available to me.

Thankfully, friendship is a two-way street, and those that love you will always love you, even if you miss their special day. I explained the situation and they were beyond supportive.

But this situation made me realize that this is just the first of many conflicts I will face.

My best friend & beloved roommate from college has been living with a guy and just bought a HOUSE WITH HIM for 3+ years, and I have met him twice. That makes me go WHAT THE FUCK!

People I love dearly are going to be doing more of this adult shit, and I can’t miss it all. I’m just going to be that person that people wonder if she’ll fly in? Or that person that just won’t get an invite because they know I can’t/won’t come?

Like, sorry I haven’t met your five year old, but today I ordered some totally adorable branded water bottles and my boss said “Good Job Paris.” So yeah…

I’m not sure that it gets easier.

And yet I know I’m not alone. My floating international community is out there facing the same challenges, work, life, travel balance. We can’t just go home and see everyone, because our home is not a stationary place.

I’m worried I’m going to be the crazy old lady from the end of Titanic who it turns out is Rose and she had this insanely awesome life but she was also like, FUCK YOU JACK the door is mine.

Sigh.

Saying Goodbye to “Home”

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When people ask me where I’m from, I can’t help it. I take a deep breath in, and I roll my eyes slightly.

Where am I from?

What a pointless question.

I think people ask it because I have a hard-to-place accent. I think people ask it, because they are trying to put you in a box in their mind. I think people are trying to categorize you. Do the places we are “from” define who we are? I suppose in some ways they do. Where you hail from is a cultural touchstone, a window into the type of person you might be.

Canadians and Americans are similar but different. If you are from Toronto, you are different from someone who is from Montreal or Vancouver. If you are an Australian, people generally assume you are friendly and outgoing. If you are Irish, you like the drink and you can get a bit crazy. Am I stereotyping? Stop me if you disagree. Are people asking you where you are from to hint at who you are? What your roots or heritage might reveal?

There are endless ways we divide ourselves, label ourselves, identify ourselves. In Toronto, I’ve heard people tell they are “from” a specific suburb. Like the area within the city, within the provence, within the country, might help signify more about them.

So where am I from?

I tell people, short answer form, that I am from Australia. I have the (slight) accent, I have the passport, I have the birth certificate. When people ask me where in Australia I am from, I tell them Sydney, because it is the place in Australia I lived most recently (for University) and spent the most years.

In reality, I was born in Perth, on the West Coast, where my father now lives, and where my cousins, Aunts, Uncles and Grandmother have always lived. I think I have spent a total of 6 months in that part of the world in over 25 years.

My mother is a New Zealand citizen. Am I from New Zealand? No. I have never been there and she left when she was 7.

Where am I from?

I spent the greater part of my life in Asia. If I told you I was from Hong Kong, you would laugh in my face (it has happened, people have done a double take and then asked me seriously… “Are you Chinese?”). I am a blonde haired, green eyed, Caucasian woman. My brother is a 6″1 hairy, caucasian giant. He was born in Hong Kong. Where is he from?

My other brother 6″3 currently blonde (or pink) haired (I think) was born in Kuala Lumper. Is he from Malaysia?

I remember a childhood of sweaty hot, monsoony nights. Street food and night markets, grinning faces that looked very different from mine, and conversations all around me in languages that I couldn’t understand.

My Mother has packed up her apartment in Hong Kong, and plans to move to Thailand this month. I am excited for her, for her new adventure. After a decade and a half in the hustling, bustling Fragrant Harbour, I know she is going to enjoy the peace and tranquility of Thailand. I know that she is chasing her dreams, and entering the next chapter of her life. With three fully grown children and another forty years in her, she has definitely got the right idea, jumping into the next adventure.

But a part of me mourns.

For someone who is a self-proclaimed Expat Brat, who moved to Canada without a backwards glance, Hong Kong was in many ways my “Home.” As culturally confused as my family and friends are, Hong Kong is a backdrop where we can all fit in.

Sorry to sound like I’m excluding, but you wouldn’t get it unless you’d grown up there, or lived in another major Expat City, (Kuala Lumper, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Seoul…)

And Hong Kong will always be there. My Mothers departure does not mark the end of the existence of that city. It is simply the last, torn out root of that chapter of my life. I can always still go there, I will always have friends there. I just won’t go “Home” to Hong Kong when I visit my parents.

My parents will be in their chosen cities, and I will be in mine.

Hong Kong is our central location, geographically a middle ground, or halfway house, for my family which is spread out across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. And while Thailand is close by, it does not hold any of the memories for my family. It will not feel like “Home” for me. Perhaps it will for my brothers who spent a year at Boarding School there. I don’t know. Even between the siblings, with only five years between the youngest and oldest, there is a vast ocean of experiences and childhood memories.

Where am I from?

Home is a word. It embodies a feeling. It cannot be one place because if you asked someone in Cairo where home was, and asked someone in Chicago the same question, both people would point to different spots on the map. It is not a charted destination. It is not physical. Maybe that is why I have always found the concept so confusing. Maybe that is why I think about it more deeply than those who ask:

Where are you from?

 

 

Things that I am actually really thankful for that might not seem obvious all the time

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Well…it’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (America is doing its own thing in november I think) and because I like to embrace things I feel I missed out on as an Australian child in Asia, I’ve decided to embrace this tradition whole heartedly.

I think it’s fantastic to have a national holiday related to the giving of thanks and I’m cool with the idea of stuffing your face, whatever the reason (even though our Thanksgiving this year is going to feature more Veggie friendly options due to my roommates non-meat-eating-ways… “no no you’re right, this tofurkey IS delicious” *cries*)

There are just so many things to be thankful for in life, and the obvious ones like my parents, my friends, blah blah, those are boring. Here is a list of things I am actually really thankful for that might not seem obvious all the time to you, but that we should take a moment to be thankful for once in a while.

Thanks Mr Garbage Man

Thanks Mr Garbage Man

I am really thankful that other people work shitty jobs, so that I don’t have to:
I used to work in retail, and it sucked, hard. But one thing I learnt from that (shitty) experience, was that I needed to be mindful of people doing kindof crappy jobs so that I don’t have to, and to make sure I give them my thanks. Like people who work in Cafe’s doling out life-giving coffee at 7.45am. Do you know what time those people had to get up so that they could be open and ready for you as you start your morning commute? Like, 3am. That’s fucking early man. Or garbage dudes who take my smelly refuse away from the place that I sleep and eat most days. Ew.

What did they do in the good-ol days before government controlled waste disposal? I don’t know, and I don’t care to briefly google it to find out. So thankyou Garbo’s, and people who work in human waste-getting-rid-of-…ness. I am glad I don’t have to deal with my own shit figuritively and literally. And people who work on farms/turning animals into the food I eat. I don’t want to kill things and feel bad… so… thanks to you guys also for making my life less shitty. And such.

I am really thankful that I do not have an STD:
Last year a rumour was spread amongst a group of people I knew that I had herpes, which infuriated me at the time (obviously) but now just makes for a great story and something to laugh about with my friends (because I actually sortof accidently kindof  started a rumour the year before that a friend of mine had an STD…Karma is a swift and unforgiving biiiitch). But really, I don’t spend enough time being thankful about the fact that there are no viruses in and around my Vajajay. I definitely do not have the money to be spending precious drinking dollars on fancy anti-herp or wart creams, and, lets be honest, I don’t have the commitment to apply that shit on the reg, so. Yeah. I’m thankful that my parents always stressed that CONDOMS were whats-up with getting-down. Thanks Mum and Dad, you guys are the greatest.

I am really thankful for Sand:
It’s tiny smashed up rocks and shells. Isn’t that amazing!? Yes you guys, yes it is.

I am really thankful that I am a blonde, white woman with big boobs:
I know, I know. You’re sick of me mentioning my breasts at every available opportunity (sooooorrrrry, they’re literally in front of my face all day every day) and now you’re kindof worried that I’m about to say something semi-racist. But no. Ish. I’m just saying that I’m grateful to be me, because if I was me, but a dude, I might get punched in the face a lot more than I do.

I pull a lot of shit and get away with it because I can play the ditsy-blonde-girl card, the foreigner card (like the time the cop wanted to charge me for jaywalking… hellooooo we don’t have roads in Australia…how was I supposed to know), and the outraged-indignant-feminist card (are you saying that because I am a WOMAN?!)

So thank you Genes, and circumstance and evoltion, for allowing me to be a bitch and still get free drinks on a semi-freuquent occassion.

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I am really thankful that Sharks do not have legs:
I fucking hate Sharks. Have you ever seen ‘Deep Blue Sea’? That is the scariest fucking movie of all time (apart from ‘The Candyman’ which I watched at an innapropriately young age, about a man with hooks for hands that can come at you through a mirror if you say “candyman” three times in a row) about Sharks that get smart and sink a Shark Research centre in the middle of the ocean and try to kill all of the people working there. Why Sharks, WHY?!

Sharks are dicks.

So I guess I don’t spend enough time being thankful that Sharks are safely in the ocean, and I am safely on the land. Really, in my day to day urban life, I have no natural predators (except for rapists and gun-men) and for that I am truly thankful. And I’m glad to live in Canada now because all the things that were very real dangers in Australia (deadly spiders, snakes and sharks) would all freeze to death over here in the winter. Yay -20 degrees. Kill all the things.

I am really thankful that when we cry, we cry tears, and not glass shards:
The human body is an amazing thing that makes me go “wow” on a regular basis. Like, WOW you grew a human person from your orgasim and a tiny egg-thing we can’t even see. And your partner carried it inside them somewhere between their guts and where they pee? Humans right!? Astonishing.

So it’s good that our humanly functions (apart from childbirth) aren’t too painful. Like crying. Tears are soft water droplets that you can’t even really feel, but imagine if they were tiny sharp shards of glass so that when you cried, you probably would cry more because of the pain. And then your cheeks would just be all scraped and torn up.

Children would be a lot quieter, there would be less sad movies, and people in general would mostly be hardasses. So thankyou evolution for making me not bleed from my eyes when I’m having a bad day/meltdown/PMS.

I am really glad that weekends exist:
Imagine if we lived in a world where there were no such things as days off or weekends. It would be like Brave New World or 1984.

Bill: Hey Gary, what you up to today.
Gary: Work. And you?
Bill: Same! And then the next 7 years of our lives?
Gary&Bill: Woooorrrkk!

If weekends didn’t exist, I would have no good stories to tell at parties because I wouldn’t have the opportunity to shame myself and regret my poor life choices. No good story ever started with “and then on a worknight this one time…”

There are so many other things to be thankful for, like how Kim Jong Il is not your dad, George Lucas isn’t directing the next Star Wars, and Sloths are a creature that really are real in real life (for a long time I thought they were an internet hoax – seriously…)

I hope you’ll take a minute to appreciate the things that you might not normally be thankful for, but that you probably should.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

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So I briefly met a guy with no arms yesterday…

Alvin Law is a motivational speaker/performer living in Calgary, Alberta. He has traveled all around the world speaking to kids and adults about breaking down labels and barriers. He has no arms, due to medication his mother took when she was pregnant (I’m assuming thalidomide – although I didn’t ask). He is given a talk today at an event my boss is involved in, and potentially at the Summer Camp I work for in June.

I only spoke to Alvin for 20 or so minutes while he was waiting for his meeting, but wow, what a guy and what an attitude to life. He is an amazing gatherer of information. Within 5 minutes of speaking with him, he had pretty much gleaned my entire life story, my hopes for the future and what its like being a graduate expat brat.

He asked me about being a “novelty” away from Australia, with the accent in Canada, and the Anglo-Saxon look when living in the heart of Asia. We chatted about noticing people’s differences instantly, that we’re all guilty of it. He told me about being in Africa and thinking to himself “Wow! There are a lot of white people here!” and then realizing that the “white people” were Africans too, many of them 4th or 5th generation.

It is interesting to think about the labels others put on us. Is it for tidiness that we feel the need to stuff people into the boxes we think they fit in? I don’t necessarily mean stereotypes and the connotations associated with that. I mean just categorizing the people we know. Alvin struggles with being thrown into the “disabled” box when he does not feel disabled. He drives himself around, he answers the phone, does work on a computer. He is “differently-abled”, but his take on life is that he is just a person like everyone else. He doesn’t ignore the fact that he has no arms, he speaks about it frequently and in a very jarring way, dropping it into conversation when you least expect it.

I identify with a variety of different people, and I have written about this before, feeling suspended between more than one culture, belonging nowhere and everywhere. Having home be where I am. There is a lot of discussion about Expat Brats out that, or, Third Culture Kids if you are trying to use bigger, fancier words. I recently watched a most excellent short film called “Where’s home?” which you can access here. It really spoke to me and I felt a sense of peace when I watched it because there were all these young people speaking my brain fuddle out loud. And of course speaking with Alvin was pretty calming too. He is an intensely nice guy with a big smile on his face. He isn’t some cuddley puff guy however, talking about “diversity” and acceptance. In fact he kind of hates diversity. He wants to move past even that stage where the lines are blurred, where we have surpassed diversity and cultural tiptoeing because we accept that everyone is slightly different but also fundamentally the same.

As you can tell from the fact that it has prompted me to write a blog post, that small encounter really made me think about how I perceive people. And also I found that hilarious photo on reddit and it needed to be posted.

End Rant.